France is renowned for its world-class wines, with regions like Bordeaux and Burgundy stealing the spotlight. However, there are many hidden gems in the French wine world, and two of them are Carignan and Mourvèdre. These grape varieties may not be as well-known as their famous counterparts, but they have their own stories to tell and flavors to offer.
Carignan: The Unsung Hero
Carignan is a red grape variety that has a long history in France, particularly in the Languedoc-Roussillon wine region. It was once widely planted in France for its high yields and resistance to diseases. However, it fell out of favor in the mid-20th century due to its reputation for producing low-quality wines.
In recent years, there has been a revival of interest in Carignan, as winemakers have discovered its potential when grown on old vines and carefully managed. The grape can produce deeply colored wines with rich tannins and flavors of dark berries, spices, and herbs.
Carignan in the Languedoc-Roussillon
The Languedoc-Roussillon region in southern France is known for its hot climate and diverse terroir. This makes it an ideal location for growing Carignan grapes, as they thrive in warm and dry conditions. Many winemakers in this region have embraced Carignan and are producing exceptional wines from this underappreciated grape.
Carignan Wine Pairing
Carignan wines are bold and full-bodied, making them a great pairing for rich and hearty dishes. They complement grilled meats, roasted vegetables, and dishes with robust flavors. In addition, the high acidity of Carignan wines makes them suitable for pairing with tomato-based dishes and Mediterranean cuisine.
Mourvèdre: The Soulful Grape
Mourvèdre is another red grape variety that often takes a backseat to its more famous counterparts, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. This grape is native to Spain but has found a second home in the warm and sunny climate of southern France, particularly in the Rhône Valley and Provence regions.
Mourvèdre is known for producing wines with intense flavors, high tannins, and a distinctive earthiness. It often exhibits notes of black fruits, spices, and leather. The grape requires a long growing season to fully ripen, which explains its preference for warmer climates.
The Rhône Valley: A Haven for Mourvèdre
The Rhône Valley in southeastern France is home to some of the finest Mourvèdre wines. The region’s hot, Mediterranean climate and rocky soils provide ideal conditions for the grape to thrive. Some of the most notable appellations for Mourvèdre in the Rhône Valley include Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Bandol.
Mourvèdre Wine Pairing
Due to its bold and intense flavors, Mourvèdre wines pair well with equally robust dishes. They are a great match for grilled or roasted meats, game, and dishes with strong flavors like lamb or beef stew. The wine’s earthy notes also make it an excellent companion for dishes with mushrooms or truffles.
Carignan and Mourvèdre may not have the same recognition as other French grape varieties, but they are worth exploring for wine lovers who seek unique and flavorful experiences. These unsung heroes of the wine world offer depth, complexity, and a taste of the terroir they come from. Whether you’re enjoying a bottle of Carignan from the Languedoc-Roussillon or savoring a glass of Mourvèdre from the Rhône Valley, you’re sure to discover the beauty and diversity of French wines.